I was 14 when the new millennium entered the fray. No planes fell out of the sky, the bank’s digital money remained at it’s right and proper intangible value, and digital kitchen appliances didn’t form a small uprising to overthrow their owners and take over planet Earth. Phew!
The Millennium Bug caused fear across the globe, with people waiting for a quirk of time to cause devastation of the world’s technological infrastructure. The bug had all the potency of Fernando Torres at Chelsea. Not the Liverpool version. He was good. Like an England World Cup penalty win, the bug never materialised. Which was good! Yay!
I remember watching the fireworks go off in my back garden, with a feeling of laziness and entitlement in equal measures. For these are the traits that “The Millennials” are said to possess in abundance. We have been tarred with the lazy brush. The lazy, good for nothing, internet-spoiled, “I want, I want”, instant gratification, and needy brush. Pretty damming stuff!
We are a generation who have caused headaches to companies the world over. As a generation, we have a reputation of job-flitting, ideas of grandeur, entitlement and, in short, a self inflated opinion that certain jobs are below us and how dare a company suggest such a menial task for such a super educated young individual. All pretty damming stuff, But somewhat mis-publicised and misunderstood.
Us Millennials though have a lot of great traits. Our talents are there to be milked for the savvy organisation, and this blog post is an attempt to give an insight into our strengths, perceived weaknesses, and how to use these to get the most out of us.
Media and parental attitude has crescendoed during our generation to create a potent mix of mentality formation. We are the first generation connected to the internet continually, surrounded by 24 hour TV, constant news and media. Our parents, in the main, followed the typical career path of get a job after leaving education, and work diligently until you are 65. Retire, and then do all of the fun stuff you have put off for your entire life.
Our parents have been exposed to the media age at a time in their lives that they have been living the reality of 9-5. They have seen the world open up with possibility, but at a time they consider too late for themselves to take advantage of. This has lead to an abundance of “follow your dreams” and “if I had my time again….” advice, suggesting that we should suck the marrow out of life whilst we are young and pursue our dreams.
The combination of continuous media showing us the world opening up, and this type of parental advice has contributed to a restless generation. We feel duty bound to “not waste our lives” and to seize the moment.
Trouble is, at a young age, your personality is in it’s formative years. You really are on a journey of self discovery. Knowledge of what you want and how to achieve it is sparse at best. At a young age, we think we know what we want, but really, experiences and doing things are the only way that we get a clear understanding of our personality. So, whilst we feel compelled to pursue our dreams, we don’t actually know what they are. This creates the restlessness.
We feel indoctrinated to pursue this higher purpose and more exciting lives, as our parents (in the main) worked 9-5 in a job they didn’t particularly like. But, when we are young, we do not know what excites us and is our higher purpose. This is gained by trialling and error – life experience that forges personality and gives us a clear understanding of what the hell we were put on this planet to do. There is no shortcut to this, but we have been convinced there is.
Our generation is one that has truly grown up immersed in technology. This does not mean that we are instantly experts, but the vast majority of us are au fait with the technologies that have impacted the world. In an ever increasing digitisation of our economy, this is obviously a strength.
Due to our mentality of wanting to get the most out of life, we also have a sense of ambition. This may be the reason we are seen as the entitlement generation – the generation who feels we should be high up in our careers without doing the necessary work to get there. Harnessed the right way, this mentality could be a huge attribute. If motivated correctly, the millennial wants to get to that position of increased responsibility and could work incredibly hard to get there.
We are a balanced generation. Probably encouraged by our parents, we see that life has more to offer than work, work, work. This should result in a generation of workers who value a healthy approach to work, a generation who see that balance is key to a healthy person. An organisation can harness this mentality by encouraging a culture of balance, who then focuses on value at work. More on that later.
We are the first generation whose relationships are characterised by social media. In fact, I think it is fair to say that one of our own pretty much shaped the whole social media landscape. We are experts in working social media. However, we aren’t necessarily experts in how to USE social media – there is a subtle difference, especially in a business sense. Again, more on that later.
How to Get the Best Out of Us
Companies across the globe have had challenges in getting the best out of Millennials. This probably is a mentality clash, as the majority of managers are from the previous generation, a generation characterised by sticking with a job through thick and thin, and sacrificing themselves to work hard for the good of the company. This is probably why clashes and misunderstandings arise – it is a genuine culture clash.
As a result, managers need to approach millennials slightly differently in order to get the best out of us (this doesn’t mean to be preachy, and is just my opinion).
In my opinion, the key to the whole conundrum is value.
As stated above, the Millennial has been indoctrinated into the mentality that life has a higher purpose and that there is more to life than work. Step one for any company is to illustrate (probably constantly – we like praise!) the value of our role in the company. This can be a spurious as:
“Well, cups of tea helped to form the british empire. Motivation of troops is a highly desirable in leadership. Cups of tea motivate troops, so every time you are making the cups of tea, you are helping your co-workers to stay motivated and to work harder. That is high quality leadership, so go and make the brews young Napoleon”.
We need to be shown the value of our work, that we are making valued contributions to the organisation. Demonstrating how our contribution matters makes us feel connected to the higher purpose of the organisation and taps into our sense of higher purpose.
On the flip side, it is the duty of every manager to show that value should be at the forefront of our mentality. We need to be schooled in the ideas of value, that entitlement comes after creation of value. You should point out to us that we can only progress when we create value for our organisation. You should point out that we come at a cost to your company, and that our aim is to add more value to the company than we cost. This mentality shift also taps into a sense of higher purpose, and gives us a sense of contribution, that we are our own little business and need to create value to be valued.
As stated above, we are a generation who has been shown that the world is an open playground of opportunity. This can create apathy as we see all this opportunity, but don’t yet know our personalities well enough to make the correct decision. This leads to resentment and ultimately laziness.
As a manager of a company, you should look to guide us on this journey of self discovery. Give us opportunity to discover ourselves. Build in variety to our jobs, give us opportunity to work in different departments and to explore our strengths. Act as a mentor and share your professional journey. Show us what it means to be successful and the skills success requires. Make it your mission to mentor us on this journey of self discovery. Appreciate that we are at the start of our exploration into this world and facilitate our growth. The variety will broaden our knowledge of self and allow us to discover how we can fit into your organisation and grow into our work.
You can build opportunity for self discovery into your workplace too. Create volunteer programmes at the office, where employees give up time to help others. Create related projects to your work but isn’t your actual day job. Google allows employees to work on a project of their choice for an afternoon a week, why not build in this kind of freedom? This is related to the point below of flexibility.
Variety and flexibility go pretty much hand in hand. You should look to build in variety to your workplace. Encourage collaboration with other departments, build in job perks such as gym membership, team trips, and maybe even remote working. The opportunity to discover our own work life balance should be provided, with the caveats of the above value addition. We should be shown that value is core to what we do, and flexibility and variety are acceptable as long as we are adding value. Shift our mentality to producing value (not just being a cog in the machine), show us how we add value, give us options, the tools to succeed and watch us fly.
Social media is the all-pervading continuity in our lives (as sad as that may be). I am a huge believer in encouraging this at work. You should encourage your employees to interact regularly on social media. The attitude will be refreshing and may just result in great publicity for your company.
Allow your millennials to take charge of your social media, with one proviso. We need to be coached in the art of relationship building. Social media is the same as real life, but just on a grander scale. At an early stage in our careers, we are as equally unsure on how best to build professional relationships online as we are in real life, despite our knowledge of how to work these various websites. The premise is still the same. Encourage your Millennials to engage with potential customers through social media, not by pushing your message, but by doing the things that build relationships in real life. Talk to potential customers about them – their problems, their opinions, their business. Allowing people to talk about them is the sure fire way to get them interested in you. This fundamental is the same on social media as in real life.
This skill of networking and relationship building needs to be learned. Teach us how to do this effectively and watch us apply the principles to social media and reach more people than you can do through physical channels alone. The extra responsibilities will energise us.
Millennials have the potential to make great employees. We just need to be leveraged in the right way. Our sense of wanting to get the most out of life can be turned into a strength by the employer willing to join us on the journey of self-discovery. Look to facilitate this journey through your company. Be a mentor, not a manager, give us opportunity for variety to discover our strengths. Offer training in our field of employment and outside of it, let us explore our interests. Show us the meaning of value, and how our role at your company creates value for the rest of the organisation, show us this bigger picture. Give us the tools to fly, share our journey, and we will repay you for that investment – in an albeit unique and different way to the generation previous!
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